Anthony Powell

English novelist (1905-2000)

Anthony Dymoke Powell CH, CBE (December 21, 1905March 28, 2000) was a British novelist. He is best known for his A Dance to the Music of Time series of books published between 1951 and 1975.

Anthony Powell
Anthony Powell with Violet on their wedding day in 1934
Anthony Powell with Violet on their wedding day in 1934
Born(1905-12-21)21 December 1905
Westminster, England
Died28 March 2000(2000-03-28) (aged 94)
Frome, Somerset
Notable worksA Dance to the Music of Time
SpouseLady Violet Pakenham

Childhood change

Powell was born in Westminster, England, to Philip Powell and Maud (née Wells-Dymoke). His father was an officer in the Welsh Regiment. His mother came from a wealthy family in Lincolnshire. Powell's early childhood was spent in a flat in Kensington. It overlooked the Gardens where he often played. In 1913, the family moved to Aldershot and into Stonehurst. Stonehurst was a large bungalow on top of a hill.

On the start of World War I in August 1914, his father went to France and took part in the early fighting. Powell moved with his mother to London. He went to a private school for a short time. Powell was later sent to a boarding school in Kent. In early 1919 Powell passed the Common Entrance Examination for Eton where he started that autumn. Powell went to Balliol College at the University of Oxford to study history in the autumn of 1923. During his third year Powell lived out of college, sharing a place with Henry Yorke. Powell travelled on the Continent during his holidays.

Powell came to work in London in the autumn of 1926. He got a job as an apprentice at the publishers, Duckworth and Company in Covent Garden.

Powell in the 1930s change

Powells first novel, Afternoon Men, was published in 1931. A second novel, Venusberg, followed in 1932. Powell’s third novel, From a View to a Death, was published in 1934. All three of Powell’s novels were liked in the London literary world. His next work was a part of a collection of works in which various authors wrote about their schooldays. Powell’s memories of Eton appeared under the title of The Wat’ry Glade.

In the autumn of 1936, he left Duckworth’s and took a job as a script writer at the Warner Brothers Studio in Teddington. The job paid well, but it involved long hours. With a team of others, he worked to create a cheap movie for the Quota. The Quota was created by the Government to protect the British movie industry. It required movie theaters to show British-made movies as well as the more popular foreign movies they normally showed. Warner Brothers, an American movie studio, set up studios in Teddington to take advantage of this. After six months of work with no movie created, Powell’s contract ended and was not renewed.

Wartime years change

Powell and his wife moved back to Regent's Park. Powell heard about a job in the movie industry, this time in Hollywood. The Powells went to Hollywood to try to get the job but he did not get it. They returned to London in August 1937. Powell began work on his fifth novel, What’s Become of Waring. He finished it in late 1938 or early the following year. The book sold fewer than a thousand copies.

Powell was told to report for duty on December 11. He was a part of the 1/5th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment at Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. Once war came, the long hours stopped any thought of writing a lot. Powell believed that this could help him. War service gave him a lot of material for later use. Parts of A Dance to the Music of Time are about the war years. These parts are The Valley of Bones, The Soldier's Art, and The Military Philosophers. Powell’s military service gave him the basic ideas for these three novels.

After war years change

Powell was 39. His first task was to work on John Aubrey and His Friends. It was completed in May 1946. In 1949 The Cressett Press hired Powell to write a book that they brought out under the title Brief Lives and Other Selected Writings by John Aubrey.

Anthony Powell would go on to international fame. He was made Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1956. In 1973 he turned down the offer of knighthood. He was made Companion of Honour (CH) in 1988. He published two more novels, O, How The Wheel Becomes It! (1983) and The Fisher King (1986). His Writer's Notebook was published after his death in 2001.

Anthony Powell died at his home, The Chantry, near Frome, Somerset, aged 94, on 28 March 2000.

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